Zen Studios’ pinball has been with us for a long time now, ever since they started with Pinball F/X on Xbox 360 close to its launch. Yup, it’s been a never-ending onslaught of regular tables. Not that I’m complaining; I’ve bought almost every one and enjoyed as many. That goes for 360, PS3, 3DS, iPhone/iPad and soon-to-be PlayStation Vita as well.
The latest batch is a set of four Avengers-related tables, collectively referred to as “Avengers Chronicles”, for Marvel Pinball on PS3 or Pinball F/X 2 on Xbox 360. The tables themselves are Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk, Fear Itself and, the headliner, The Avengers. The blurb that goes along with them states Zen wanted to move away from character-themed tables to try and tell stories through each table. If you’ve played their other offerings, it’s an inclination felt in the Epic Quest table, which couldn’t evoke World of Warcraft more if it had Blizzard’s blessing to emblazon the logo all over it.
Based directly on the movie, it sounds like Loki is voiced by Troy Baker to my ears, a.k.a. The guy taking over from Nolan North as the guy who must be in all video games. You’ve heard him if you’ve played Diablo III, Final Fantasy XIII, Mass Effect 3, Binary Domain or Arkham City, to choose a few at random (it’s always so hard to choose things at random). Sounded like him in the Epic Quest table too, but my obsessive recognition of voice actors is getting away from me. Maybe that’s because I want their job? If there’s a point, it’s that Zen are getting some pretty good talent for voicing their tables and, given the prestigious licences Marvel is letting them play with, it’s clear Zen are doing well for themselves.
As for the how the table plays, it has to be said it has the glossiest start. Not just out of this set either, but of all Zen’s tables so far; you follow a very shiny and city-lit Iron Man as his backdrop changes from stars to the table itself. The first thing you notice about the playing area is that all the balls are designed to match a particular hero, all the way from Captain America to Thor. They sit in reserve off to one side, with differing ways of changing who is in play. One multi-ball event mimics a scene from the movie with Captain America and Iron Man, so it’s those two your flippers are punting about.
My favourite moment on this table to date? When the helicarrier is damaged, all the lighting goes red and you have to fix it. What? Didn’t I mention the table is the helicarrier? This is perhaps the spangliest table and makes the best first impression and is the one you’ll show off to friends, but the rest of the tables have enough tricks to give Loki a run for his money.
World War Hulk
Ah, you can’t beat a bit of “Hulk smash!”, which is why there’s a lot to like when your pinballs are wrecking balls. This one will take you through the story of Hulk’s exile and angry, angry return to Earth. While this is possibly the least flashy of the set, it’s still more than capable of sucking you into the trance-like state of concentration that pinball is known for.
This table inspired me to read World War Hulk in the Comixology app and I have to say, it really does follow the story very closely, with dialogue straight from the comics all over the place.
Best ball launcher ever, I think: A character cartwheels from the left of the table over to the launch area and raises her hammer as hard as you press the launch button. It’s a very satisfying smash with which to start play. The skill shot is quite nice too, causing the ball to swoosh around the semi-circular bottom half of the table.
Naturally, given all the swooshing and smashing, this table gets in touch with the kind of glee your inner child can really appreciate.
This is the most mind-bending table I have ever played. As if it wasn’t weird enough to have an event where the flippers are reversed (you have to hold buttons to put them down), there’s also an event where the table is upside down. That’s right, the flippers are at the top as if someone just turned your telly upside down. To make it fair, the lighting dims a bit and your balls glow yellow, so you’ll definitely see them coming.
If I was good enough to make it through all the events, I’d be able to confirm that there’s an event for each colour of gem in the infinity gauntlet… But as it stands, it’s just a hunch. This table also gets extra points for the way Thanos creepily professes his love… Umm, yeah. The earth-shattering bass of simply launching the ball and Silver Surfer’s involvement in proceedings are also worth a mention here.
As a whole, it’s a fine package and possibly even the best Zen have put out thus far. It does, however, make me all the more anxious to get my hands on Zen Pinball 2. Which is to say, I really want to play these in 3D and on Vita.
How’s this for a soundbite though: If it is remotely possible for you to enjoy pinball with a controller in your hands, it’s hard to imagine how you could do better than Avengers Chronicles.
9 Vengeful Balls out of 10